February 2014 Archives

Beginning of the End

That's not entirely true, I've got so much work to plow through between now and the end of spring semester that at times I feel like I'll never be done. However, Wednesday afternoon I signed up for my last ever classes at GSLIS. True to form, I'm taking the road less travelled and finishing up my GSLIS career with two weeklong intensive courses over the summer, including one that I think is intended for archive students. My final semester as a masters student will be done in short intensive bursts. I'll spend the last week of May taking LIS 450: Organization and Management of Public Libraries, a class I'd planned to take in the fall semester but timing hadn't worked out. The second course will meet for two three day periods during the month of July, LIS 425: History of the Book. I'm most looking forward to LIS 425, in fact, it's the class that made me originally decide I wanted to go to school to become a librarian.

I remember very distinctly the day I was looking at the Simmons GSLIS curriculum from my desk, at a job I absolutely detested, and seeing that part of library school could involve taking a class called "History of the Book." That sold me right then and there. What could be better, and more nerdy (in the best possible way), than devoting a whole class to books; how they've evolved as physical objects and what they've meant to society over time. When I saw that this course was being offered over the summer it seemed serendipitous that the last class I take with GSLIS would be the one that made me initially decide to pursue library school.

In total, of the twelve courses I will have taken at Simmons, seven were regular in-person courses meeting once a week on Simmons' Boston campus, one was entirely online, and four were weeklong intensive courses. Of the intensive courses, two met/will meet in Boston, one met in Rome, and the last will meet at GSLIS West at Mount Holyoke. Excluding the blended course format, one that's mainly online but meets in person a few times over the semester, I've managed to experience just about all the Simmons has to offer. This wide range of courses and formats has made me really think about how I learn best and has forced me to become a more independent learner.

As of now, the online class is proving most challenging, as I suspected it would, and the weeklong courses have tended to be most enjoyable. In some ways I can't wait to be done with GSLIS, in others, I can't believe I'm almost done! It may not be quite the beginning of the end, but the end is certainly just around the corner.

Classes | leave a comment

A Case for Classes at the Carle

Warning: This is an advertisement. Or perhaps it's more of an endorsement. One of the coolest things children's literature students at Simmons can do is attend classes that are held at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. Currently, I am enrolled in one such class--Children's Book Publishing--taught by Vicky Smith. We meet for the last weekend of every month, mostly in the windowless conference room, but the change of setting is refreshing. (And the lack of windows really isn't that bad.)

Taking a class with students who aren't Boston-based is enlightening because they bring a different perspective. The cultural climate around the area reminds me so much of Bellingham, Washington (where I went to undergrad) so I feel right at home. So many of the students are writers in the dual degree track--at least in the case of this particular Carle class. For a would-be librarian like me, being surrounded by so many aspiring writers is just the coolest. I could shelve their books someday. Isn't that wild?

The class is also good for librarians because it gives us insight into a different part of the industry. I know that there is a similar publishing course in the library science catalog, but this one seems more focalized on children's literature. Nonetheless, I'll never forget that first day of class when we cut the covers off books (sacrilegious, I know) to see how they were bound. In that moment, I almost wanted to leave Simmons for a book arts program. But I think I'd rather work directly with the patrons and just admire the artistry.

There are plenty of other reasons to go to the Carle. Our enrollment in the class gives us a free membership to the museum. Since we're mostly in class when the museum is closed to the public, there's still time to play around when it opens. However, apparently Eric Carle himself was there just the other day while we were in class and we missed it. But, luckily, I did get to see Dr. Seuss' hat collection while I was in Northampton. What a guy.

Side note: If you're ever in doubt of where to go for lunch, try the Atkins Farm. You won't regret it. That said, I'm still hoping to finally try one of the museum's caterpillar cookie one of these days. Hopefully I won't regret that...

Children's Literature | leave a comment

Judy Chicago Comes to Boston!

I can't believe this is already my last semester in graduate school - not to mention that the semester is halfway through.  As some of you know, I am taking my 502 - my capstone internship - at the Schlesinger Library, part of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.  As an intern exhibit researcher, I am working to coordinate an exhibit going up on October 14th regarding the Civil War.  But as that's months away, I want to share with you an exciting opportunity that's coming up much sooner...Judy Chicago coming to Boston! 

I am sure that most of you know Judy Chicago, but a bit of background on her: she is one of the most influential women artists this century.  Ostensibly her greatest work, The Dinner Party, is not only massive, but massively successful (and definitely on my bucket list of "to-see's") and lives in Brooklyn permanently; I highly recommend (re)reading the Wikipedia articles on both her and The Dinner Party, and then coming to see the new exhibit opening - featuring Judy Chicago and her work - at the Schlesinger Library!  The Schlesinger holds the largest collection of Judy Chicago papers, and will be displaying artifacts, articles, and more on Chicago.  The exhibit will run from February 26th until September 30th, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. 

To celebrate the opening of this wonderful exhibit, Judy Chicago will be giving a talk on Tuesday, March 4th, at 4:15 at the Knafel Center (formerly Radcliffe Gymnasium) alongside Jane Gerhard (a historian whose newest book, The Dinner Party: Judy Chicago and the Power of Popular Feminism, 1970-2007, provides some fascinating insight and history into Chicago's themes).  Their interaction is one that I am beyond excited to see, especially because I can have their talk fresh in my mind when I visit the exhibit afterwards. 

If you are interested in art, feminism, their intersection, exhibits, archives, or even just have some spare time on Tuesday afternoon, I highly recommend that you take the time to come to this free lecture and view the exhibit!  Below is additional information if you are interested.  

Facebook page featuring events and more information for the Schlesinger: https://www.facebook.com/SchlesingerLibrary

Events page for the Schlesinger: http://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/event/2014-judy-chicago-through-the-archives-exhibit

And, of course, her personal website: http://www.judychicago.com/artist/exhibition-schedule.php

Events | leave a comment

Monday with Julia Child

This past Monday I ventured over to the Schlesinger Library, which is part of Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study. Although I was making this trip for research purposes, I won't deny my excitement about getting to handle the papers and letters of THE Julia Child! To begin with, this was the woman who not only taught America how to cook, but she was part of a food revolution that helped pull America out of its bizarre obsession with disgusting Jello-molds and pre-packaged foods. Going beyond that, this woman is somewhat of a role model to me. Like her, I went through most of my relatively short life not totally sure of what I wanted to do. Just like her, I tried different things, each fun but never quite providing me with the level of fulfillment of satisfaction that I was searching for. But then, I discovered how much I loved baking, and a passion began to grow. Sure, I didn't have the same degree of a food epiphany that Ms. Child had when she had her first meal in France (which for those of you who don't know, consisted of oysters and sole meunière) but the same principle applies. For me, my food revelation occurred during Thanksgiving 2011, the Thanksgiving that I decided I was fed up with my mom always doing the baking and that I wanted to try my hand at it. Of course I had had done some baking before, who hasn't popped open a box of brownie mix in the past? But this time, something was different. As I prepared the recipe, I found myself enjoying the kitchen science that I was performing. I was literally taking separate things, combining them, and creating something new. Not just new, but delicious as well. From then on, I became obsessed with food.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because this passion of mine is what led me to the Schlesinger Library Monday morning. You see, in the history course that I am taking for the dual degree, I need to write a 20+ page paper on any topic I want as long as it occurred in the post WWII era. After some careful thinking (okay, maybe more like frantic), I came up with a topic that I knew I could do justice. For the paper, which will most likely be later incorporated into my history thesis, I will be writing about American food culture in the 1950s and 1960s and its reflections of gender roles. Since my inspiration of the idea came from a discussion I had started in class related to Julia, I knew that I wanted her to be a part of my paper. Her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking came out at a time when American food culture was in desperate need of a change. Not only was her cookbook directed at the average American cook, it also encouraged them to break their habit of using pre-packaged, pre-made junk. Additionally, her cookbook is gender blind. I've skimmed through my copy and I could not find one instance where Julia or her co-authors make it explicit that this cookbook is for women or men only. The impact of her cookbook and her cooking show, The French Chef, impacted Americans greatly, all of which is documented in the many boxes of fan letters, personal correspondences between Julia and friends, and other documents that the Schlesinger Library has in its collection. For me, holding a letter written by Julia for her dear friend Avis De Voto that discussed various recipes for sauces felt like I was holding a piece of culinary history. Talk about fulfilling a fan girl's dream!

If you are like me and are somewhat Julia Child-crazy, then you too should plan a visit to the Schlesinger Library. They do have a variety of other collections that are worth exploring as well, including a quite large historic cookbook collection (something that I will be examining in the very near future). The Schlesinger Library is located about ten minutes from the Harvard T stop so you could totally pop in for a visit the next time that you are in the area. If you need a cafe suggestion, I strongly suggest stopping by Crema Cafe, which can be found along the way. It can be a little bit crazy in there, but the coffee and pastries are worth it. Who knows, maybe you too will have a food epiphany just like Julia?

Bon Appetite!

Classes | leave a comment

The Agony and Ecstasy of Group Work

One of the main differences between undergrad and graduate school that I would probably have appreciated knowing about ahead of time was how different the workload tended to be.  Instead of lots of small assignments, you usually only get 3 or 4 big projects per class per semester.  I hate to tell you this, but most of them involve group work.

I have to admit that I didn't know that going in.  For some people it doesn't seem like a big deal - group work?  So what?  For others, though, myself included, knowing that my entire academic life at Simmons was going to depend on groups of peers working together was enough to make my heart sink. 

The first time I heard about the approaching group work storm, I was sitting at a table with five or six other new GSLIS students at the Orientation Day last spring, and we were shooting questions about GSLIS classes and professors at someone who was about to graduate.  I swear that when he mentioned group work, every single person at that table groaned.  I'm pretty sure all of us were picturing the same thing: the group where we're the only one doing any work, or no one's schedules work together, so coordinating efforts is a Herculean task, or someone else's efforts are so much less than they should be that their part of the project drags the entire grade down... there are a ton of terrifying possibilities, most of which we'd all experienced in college or our professional lives more than once.   

Of course, there are advantages to working in groups on big projects, and when everyone works together beautifully it can be an amazing experience, but that's the gold ring, the one in a million chance.  Mostly, everyone's experiences had been pretty awful, and it was with dawning horror that we confirmed that yes, group work was going to be a part of every class, that group work is just how grad school tends to work, not just at GSLIS or at Simmons, but more or less universally. 

It was a pretty chilling revelation for all of us. 

Now that I have more than a year of classes under my belt, I can say with some confidence: it's really not that bad.  I really isn't!  In all of my classes I've only had one group work experience that was even close to the sort of horror show scenario I was expecting at the beginning, and even then it was made clear at the outset that our individual contributions would be what determined our grades, not the overall group performance.  The professors at GSLIS do, in fact, understand why people hate group work so much, and have created ways to minimize the awful parts of it. With that out of the way, there's more time to experience the good parts of working in a group - having other people to bounce ideas off of, being able to divide work based on individual strengths and weaknesses, and all the rest of it. 

I'm not sure I'll ever look forward to group work, but it's not something traumatic anymore.  For that, I am extremely grateful.

Classes | leave a comment

There's Nothing Part-Time About My Schedule

As of this semester I'm officially a part-time student, doesn't that sound nice? It implies that I have tons of extra time when I'm not doing schoolwork. The same applies when I mention my part-time job, sounds like I've got all the free time in the world. The picture quickly changes when I start doing the math: one part-time job of about 25 hours a week and another of 10 or more hours and I'm quickly at 35 hours! Add in two classes, one in person and one online, a weekly commute to Boston and all these part-times are suddenly adding up.

You thought being a full-time student was hard? Try being a part-time student. At first this seems like an oxymoron, how would taking fewer classes be more demanding? I'd never thought about this until I became one of the part-timers, and six weeks in I'm finding it incredibly challenging. It's no wonder, just look at my schedule! When you're a full-time student, school is your primary focus, this is no longer the case when you're part-time.

There are a lot of benefits to working while being in this program, such as drawing on work experience when thinking about assignments or participating in class. Seeing how my classes connect to real world scenarios has helped me focus and made me take the time to fully understand course material. There are also challenges that come along with my schedule. My time management skills have improved exponentially, procrastination is no longer an option. In the past I've always been a student with a job on the side, now I remind myself that school needs to remain a priority for these last few months of school, even as my jobs become more demanding.

All that said, I think the fact that I want to focus more on work than school is a sign that I'm moving in the right direction and I'm ready to really start my career. I've been in school for basically my whole life, and I can't wait to be done with homework! Until the day comes when I'm done with GSLIS, I'm looking at you August 2nd, I need to keep focused and learn as much as possible from my last few classes. 

Students | leave a comment

A Feast of "Air and Stories"

Because of Maggie's previous post, I decided to take a chance and go to massmouth's Storytelling Festival last Saturday at the Boston Public Library. Well, maybe "chance" is the wrong word. I have long been a fan of the "idea" of storytelling. I decided to fulfill a dream, perhaps?  

Since I was a child, I have always feasted on stories. I know that I am not alone in this--certainly not in a program like ours. When many of us think of stories, though, we often think of books. Certainly I do. Yet, the raconteurs of my childhood were my father and my grandfather, who delighted in inventing tales that thrilled and terrified. It wasn't until I grew older and learned to read on my own that my stories transformed into printed words narrated by a voice in my head (he's quite good but, unfortunately, you'll never get to hear him). Now I'm trying audiobooks. But nothing quite replaces the physical presence of a storyteller.

Results of a survey released in September of 2013 revealed that the bedtime story is on the decline. Only 13% of the survey's respondents read a story to their children every night, while 75% recalled being read to every night when they were kids. In an age where television can transfix the mind, it seems only natural that book stories might have to fight a little harder for attention. The interaction is quiet, save for a few page turns and the voice(s) in the reader's head (at least in my experience). But storytelling is different. Storytelling is interactive. Storytelling is immersive. Storytelling can transfix, too.

One of my professors, a former youth services librarian, remarked what a shame it is that library science programs don't really require storytelling courses anymore. While I can understand why (tuition costs, numerous other graduation requirements, etc.), it still makes me sad. Oral storytelling seems to have a lasting power that books don't. I still remember these magic words Norah Dooley used in her telling of an Italian folktale at the Festival: "Ari-Ari, Donkey, Donkey, Money, Money!" Admittedly, I remember her story better than many of the books I've read for classes. Even with books I love enough to share with another person, my own telling of it is the one that I remember best. I wonder why that is. I guess there's just something about spoken words that lasts even though they're basically gone once they're uttered.

Massmouth's catchphrase is "Because you have a life, you have a story. Bring it." To that I might add that, if you have a story, tell it. We all need a good story in some way or another. As the quote falsely attributed to C.S. Lewis goes, "We read to know that we are not alone." Maybe we watch to know that we are not alone, too. But we can also listen to know that we are not alone.  And maybe, if we listen, we won't really be alone after all.

People | leave a comment

A Valentine for my Macbook

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My dear Macbook
I love you.

For a long time, I was a pen-and-paper kinda gal.  If you read my most recent post about office supply rehab, this should come as no surprise to you.  However, in the last few years of college and all of graduate school I have found myself starting to take more and more notes on the computer.  This can be attributed to the fact that I was an art history major taking a Japanese art class, and my mutilated spellings of "Hiroshige" along with descriptive phrases like "View of Mt Fuji with Plants and bridge No. 2" led me to need to insert the actual piece of art itself, and since then I realized how much more easy it is for me to take notes on a computer. 

It hasn't stopped there.  I have started buying and reading my textbooks on my iPad, which is an absolutely amazing resource when it comes to not having to lug textbooks on the train if I want to refer to them during class.  I have linked my Simmons email up to my regular gmail account and can review important emails and send responses or replies from the train.  Occasionally, I do get a flashback of little Carolyn in fourth grade with her hardcopy of "The Island of the Blue Dolphins" or "Follow the Stars," and I wonder what she would think of all of this current technology. 

I know that a lot of people still prefer to read things in hardcover.  For a lot of books, I am the same way - while I'm reading on my computer I often lose focus and check Facebook or Reddit, and sometimes I yearn for the nostalgia of my paperback "Redwall."  But one of the recurring themes of library school is that you can hold out for as long as you like, but technology is taking over - and we are really stuck in the crosshairs, aren't we.  Sometimes I wonder if it's better to be all-digital, all-analog, or find a combination of the two.  The only thing I am sure of at the moment is that regardless of advances in the field of aviation, there will never be a day when I can't read a paper book during take off...and at the very least that constant is enough to leave the metaphysical questions for another day. 

What do you think, dear readers?  Do you still take notes with a pen and paper, and buy hardcover books?  Or have you entirely made the switch over to the digital world?

People | Technology | leave a comment

Weekend at the Boston Public Library

Sitting right outside of the Copley T stop are two connected buildings that couldn't appear to be more different. The first building is old and scholarly, the type of historic landmark that is almost begging to have its picture taken. Its classic charm makes one feel as if they are about to enter some sort of sacred place, an historic institution where knowledge is both value and shared.  The second building seems to lack the romantic charm of its brother although that does not seem to hamper its popularity amongst the general public. Everyday, a wide range of people pass through this modern building's rotating door, each looking for something different amongst the building's vast collection and other offerings. Although both buildings might appear to be aesthetically different, they are actually one in the same. Together, these two buildings make up the Boston Public Library.

Over this past weekend, I had the pleasure to visit the BPL not once, but TWICE! Starting with Saturday, I took a friend who's lived in the city for the last three years; this was his first time ever stepping inside the BPL. I had to remind him that since he's friends with someone working towards a degree in Library and Information Science, he should expect more library-based adventures in the near future. A self-proclaimed 'non-reader,' I had never expected my friend to enjoy the library as much as he did. In fact, I think he got more into it than I did. Together, we strolled through the McKim Building, also known as the research part of the library. To give you an idea of what the McKim Building looks like, imagine a smaller version of the New York Public Library, complete with beautiful murals and ornate details. And the books! There were so many beautifully old books scattered about the three story building I didn't know where to look first. Of course, all of these antique beauties were kept locked up so all I unfortunately could do was stare longingly at them through old glass. But still, I wasn't going to let such a minor detail interrupt my fun. Together, my friend and I poked our heads into each and every room, most of them containing non-circulating research materials and very studious patrons. Even my non-book loving friend ended up confessing that the BPL was a pretty cool place to check out.

As for my second visit, the two of us spent the bulk of our time exploring the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, which coincidentally is the same place that I work. Currently enrolled in a Master's program at Clark University studying Geographic Information Development and Environment, she thoroughly enjoyed the map center. My eyes might glaze over in awe when I stare at gorgeously old books, but my friend, she nearly swooned at the sheer collection of maps that the Leventhal Map Center has at its disposal. Just to clarify, the map center happens to have in its collection about 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases, the bulk of which has already been digitized and can easily be accessed online. All you map fan boys and girls should plan a visit to this overlooked gem ASAP. While we did venture over to the Johnson building, which houses the BPL's circulating collection, we did spend most of our time in the map center, flipping through some of the many atlases that can be found in the research center, located right behind the gallery itself.

For those of you who haven't yet had a chance to check out the BPL, I strongly suggest you should. Besides its extensive reference collection, the library frequently offers programs for people of all ages, and often has at least two special exhibits on display.

Boston | Libraries | leave a comment

Crowdsourcing the MFA's New Exhibit

MFA Impressionists.jpg

On Friday, the Museum of Fine Arts opened its first crowdsourced exhibit after letting the public vote on what works should be included in the "Boston Loves Impressionism" show.  Over 10,000 people voted in three rounds, showing that Bostonians are pretty passionate about their art. 

Simmons is only a few blocks from the MFA, and one of the great perks of being a student is that we get free admission to a lot of the local museums with our student ID, so I usually end up visiting the MFA at least five or six times a semester. 

I've been paying particularly close attention to news about this exhibit lately, because I think this is a great use of the idea and technology of crowdsourcing.  Instead of letting curators have all the power to create the shows they think people want to come to the museum to see, why not let people tell curators exactly what they actually want to see?  

One of the big topics of discussion at Simmons, one that has come up in almost every GSLIS class, is the idea of accessibility and responding to the needs of our users.  As cultural institutions, museums, archives and libraries owe it to users to not just provide the information that we think users should have, but to actually listen to users and provide them with what they actually want.  This is important not only for maintaining and proving our own relevance as institutions (a real and increasingly pressing issue), but for actually doing the job we want to do: to help users with their information needs.

I remember a lot of my fellow employees at the Vancouver Public Library grumbling about the fact that we were ordering 10 copies of the new John Grisham book but discarding classics left and right.  (Classics that hadn't been circulated in five years.)  There will always be tension between the idea of libraries as receptacles of accumulated cultural knowledge and libraries as flexible centers of community learning.  In the end, I think they need to be a little bit of both - but what's really important is that members of the public see us as filling a need that they have, one that the internet simply can't.  In order to do that, of course, we first have to find out - from them - what their needs really are.  

Boston | leave a comment

Ladies and Gentlemen - Nicole Cunha!

Every semester I interview someone so fantastically excellent from the GSLIS program so I can share him or her with the Student Snippets fan base. This semester I have chosen a friend and colleague of mine from Beatley Library at Simmons. Nicole Cunha, a graduate of Simmons College, has been working in the library since her junior year. She is now a dual degree major in Children's Literature and Library Science at GSLIS. She is a constant inspiration to me. She works in almost every department at Beatley and when she's not working, she's here working on all of her homework. She is a rockstar. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nicole Cunha.

I Want project-credit to Emily Seitz-Cunha.jpg

1) What made you choose the GSLIS program and what is your focus while here at Simmons? How did you get here?

Long story short, my hometown/elementary school librarian told me about Simmons when I was younger; or she at least tried to get me interested in it. If I remember correctly, she had mentioned Simmons to my mum because she recognized my passion for the written word at an early age (and I still have the summer reading program medals to prove it).
I guess you could say I'm here partly to extend the influence she had on me and share my love of books with other malleable minds. On the other hand, I'm here to blend the field of Library Science (and Children's Lit!) with my newest interest : video games and video game design. Using these three things I want to explore how people learn, the various ways to encourage multi-faceted learning and create new models for interactive learning within a library setting.

2) What are some of the best parts of the dual degree program? What have you learned so far?

The best part of the program (both in and outside of class) : the people, and how we play off each other. We help each other work through our thought processes for papers, research for projects and allow each other to geek out about our hobbies and passions. A few that come to mind: Star Trek, picture books, the Muppets and Beauty and the Beast. The staff stress that our classmates are our network, and I agree with them. At the risk of sounding sentimental (if that's even the right word), these scholars, librarians and archivists in training form an amazing support network, intellectually and emotionally!

This being my second semester. I could say I haven't learnt a lot, but that's definitely a lie. Criticism of Children's Literature (CHL 401) was challenging and thought provoking; Information Organization (LIS 415) lead me to trust in my instincts (and certainly appreciate the art that is cataloguing!), and Foundations of Library Science (LIS 401) allowed me to hone in on a couple interests and figure out how to actually apply them to my future profession.

3) How long have you been working at Beatley? Where do you work and what's your favorite job?

Though I'm sure everyone knows that I live at Beatley (almost literally), I've only been working here since my Junior year of undergrad [for proof, check a 2013 yearbook or the portraits along the wall to the MCB]. My favorite job...oh, that's a tough one...everything? ILL/Reserves provides me with back of the house/behind the scene experience; at Circulation I'm able to interact with people across the college and the public all the while developing my customer service skills, and Stacks Maintenance gives me the chance to spend time among the shelves- my natural habitat you might say. Despite not working much with Stacks and Circ anymore, I miss getting recognized by patrons when I'm not on shift. That tells me I'm at least doing something right!

4) If you had a super power what would it be? Would you use that power for good or evil?

Super power, eh? I'm at a toss up between healing (either with herbs or magic like in Charmed) or time travel (preferably Doctor Who or Harry Potter style). I like helping people and lending a hand or ear when needed, but I also would like more time to get everything I need to done. I'm very much like Hermione- in the library (usually doing homework).

Students | leave a comment

Write. Edit. Repeat.

I started writing this blog just over a year ago, right as I started at GSLIS. When I had been a prospective student I enjoyed reading the posts of current students and was happy to be able to contribute experiences when I became a student. Lately I've been happier than ever that I got involved outside of classes in the form of this blog because my job is requiring a lot of writing.

When I first started writing blog posts that would be posted at the end of the week I would write an outline one day, a first draft the next day and edit a third day before finally submitting. I promise I'm not a perfectionist, very far from it, but writing has always taken me a long time, and in order to prevent typos I need to look at it more than once. While this may sound excessive, I'm ultimately glad I spent so much time editing and reworking my writing last spring while I had more time to devote to it. Not only has it made writing blog posts for GSLIS much more efficient (one write and one or two quick edits) but it has been helpful as my role as a reference assistant has expanded to involve more responsibility than I had thought possible.

My library has recently had a lot of staffing changes and with it has come a large shift in responsibilities. We are still working to figure out how jobs will be divvied up - stay tuned for more details as my role is better defined. But one of my new responsibilities is writing a bi-weekly article in our local newspaper. I'm writing to an audience that is (no offense) a bit bigger than the audience here on the GSLIS blog. Practicing my writing skills here has made it much easier as I work to find time in an already packed schedule to write and edit an eight hundred word article every other week. Yet another example of how GSLIS will take you different places than you'd imagined.

Jobs | leave a comment

Construction Paper Revelations

Before the first day of The Picturebook, Professor Megan Lambert sent us an email requesting that we bring the following items to class: a stack of construction paper, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. If you're anything like me, these magical three are the things you bring to craft nights because you can't sew or embroider or knit or [insert equally awesome skill here]. They're the essentials. They're the things that make you feel like an artist even when people say you aren't. Therefore, you can imagine my delight when I realized that the activity planned for class was nothing other than starting the project that would be creating our very own picturebooks. In grad school. Awesome, right?

When I found out, I told everyone. As I rejoiced and Instagramed my process over the next few weeks, I realized that the people I was telling were making certain assumptions about the level of difficulty of my program. I can imagine why they would. Picturebooks, normally 32 pages, tend to have simple text and colorful illustrations. They tend to be reviewed in magazines as "charming" or "cute." When pitted against a 500-page novel, perhaps the literary merit of a picturebook goes to the wayside. But let me fill you in on a little secret: Making picturebooks is hard.

The assignment itself seemed so simple at first. We were to condense a fairy tale into five scenes and design artwork for each page (as well as front and back covers). The catch was that we could only use construction paper, three colors plus white, and our artwork was to be a bit more abstract. During our most recent class, we presented our picturebooks. Naturally, the results were as varied as the people in the program:


Mine is the sixth from the left side. And, now that I have turned it in and distanced myself from the assignment, I must say that I have gained a new respect for those who create picturebooks. This is not to say that I didn't have it before. As an aspiring minimalist, I have long admired the art form's conciseness and tight integration of the verbal and the visual. That said, I think the fact that I have now created a picturebook--that all students who study children's literature at Simmons will have created picturebooks before they leave--speaks to our ability to critique them. Sometimes it can be really easy to judge a book on the shelf. In fact, ridiculously easy. But I think that we forget sometimes that someone made that book. That someone maybe even cut out construction paper mock-ups once upon a time before it became that finished product you might be holding now.

My picturebook would probably never be published. It's not even technically a full book. But as I saw it up there, among the others from my class, it felt like I had made one. A real one. All the effort that went into it was plain as day: pencil markings, curled edges of pages, and the like. I'm certainly no Lane Smith, but it's okay because I don't have to be. It just means that not everyone can make a quality picturebook. The best ones, simple as though they might seem, are really works of art.

Classes | leave a comment

Papercut Zine Library

papercut01.jpgThe Papercut Zine Library takes up the back corner of Lorem Ipsum Books in Inman Square, Cambridge.

Zines have been around since the rise of punk subculture in the '70s, and continue to thrive as small handwritten or typed booklets today.  There are zines on every topic imaginable, and thousands of new ones produced every year.  I've always loved the personal stories found in most zines, and the time and energy put into making them tends to mean more to me than simply reading a blog entry on the same subject.

The Papercut Zine Library is home to more than 15,000 zines, with new arrivals constantly being added to the collection.  A year's membership costs just $12, and unlimited zines are lent out for 4 weeks. 

Better yet, at least for me, they are always looking for volunteers to help out with cataloging the zines and running the zine library, and that was what really interested me.  I still haven't taken a cataloging class, but what better way to navigate the tricky cataloging rules than to learn by doing?

When I worked at the public library in Vancouver, BC, they had just started a zine collection and were still in the midst of figuring out how best to explain the collection, and zines in general, to the library's patrons.  They now have almost 1,000 zines in their collection in a variety of topics, so it's pretty clear that the collection has been a big success!zines.jpg

Papercut, while the largest public zine library in the Boston area, isn't the only one.  Leslie University's Sherrill Library also has a zine collection that the public may browse (though only Leslie students can borrow), and the Framingham Public Library has a small collection of YA zines. 

The Papercut Zine Library

@Lorem Ipsum Books,

1299 Cambridge St.

Cambridge MA


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Get in Line for Story Time

 Are you sick of hearing me write about stories? Too bad, friends, because here comes another event too good to pass up. Next Saturday at Boston Public Library in Copley Square, MassMouth will host its 3rd Annual Storytelling event. Why do I get so amped about storytelling? I suppose it's the rush I get when I go on stage and share an experience from my life with hundreds of people. It could also be the looks of surprise on the faces of the kids that come to my story time when I tell them that a WITCH has come to the window. BOO! Mostly, I tell you about these events and the glorious hilarity of it all because when it comes down to, it stories are meant for sharing. I tell this to you as I tell my 6-year olds at storytime: we are storytellers. All of us.  Come to a storytelling event at MassMouth. Stop by Copley next Saturday for a half an hour. In a half an hour you can hear 2 or 3 personal stories. If you go early in the day you can take a workshop and learn to tell your own stories. You don't have to take the storytelling class to be a storyteller (although it is one of the best classes I've taken at GSLIS). All you have to do is stand up and tell: no props, no book to hide behind, just you and your imagination. DSC00192.jpg

Libraries | leave a comment

2014 Olympics Fun Facts

It may be a stereotype, but in my experience it has been true, that librarians (and archivists) love their trivia. In anticipation of the Olympics starting this weekend I decided to find some Olympics fun facts for all your trivia needs. The student lounge on campus is a place where lots of great trivia tidbits are exchanged and I hope to put some of these to use in the next couple of weeks. Looking forward to having lots of olympic action on in the background while I catch up on homework and try to keep warm in the bitter cold.

So, because its 2014, I think its only appropriate to provide you with 14 fun facts about the Olympics, past and present, to use to impress your friends and family.

1. The Olympic flame in Olympia, Greece is rekindled every two years using the sun's rays and a concave reflective mirror.

2. With a total of 303, Norway leads with the most medals from the winter games through 2010. The U.S. is second with 253.

3. Curling, figuring skating, speed skating (including short track speed skating), and ice hockey are the only indoor sports in the Winter Olympics.

4. Twelve new events are making their premier this year: men's and women's competitions in ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle, and snowboard parallel slalom, along with women's ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, team figure skating, and luge team relay.

5. First place winners in the 1900 Paris Olympics received paintings instead of gold medals because they were considered to be more valuable.

6. The 1936 games in Berlin marked the first time the Olympics were televised.

7. The "Olympic Truce" required that wars and disputes within the Hellenic world be suspended for the duration of the Games.

8. The first Torch Relay started in Athens and went through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia before finishing in Berlin for the 1936 Games.

9. The 1944 Games were cancelled due to WWII. London hosted the first post-war games of 1948.

10. The first official Paralympic Games took place in 1960 in Rome and hosted 400 athletes from 23 countries.

11. Equestrianism is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete against each other on equal terms.

12. During the Closing ceremony, three flags are raised; the Greek flag to honor the Games' birthplace, that of the current host country, and that of the country hosting the next Games.

13. The 2014 Winter Olympics will be the second games held in Russia, but only the first attended by the U.S. The 1980 games hosted by the Soviet Union in Moscow were boycotted by Team USA in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

14. The "Krasnaya Polyana" (Mountain Cluster) overlooking Sochi will play host to the Olympics outdoor events like skiing and snowboarding. These mountains are credited with being the place where Zeus shackled Prometheus as punishment for stealing fire from the gods to give to humankind. Many Greek mythologists also believe Sochi is where Odysseus encountered the cyclops.

Relaxing | leave a comment

Big Moves

So, I moved. I'm still in Allston (darn), but at least I am several steps closer to Brookline. I could wax poetic about how much I love that city (fun fact: I volunteer in the Teen Room at the main branch of the public library) but that would do little for our purposes here. As much as I might like to publicly complain about my laborious moving process (it really wasn't so bad), I find myself distracted by a much more exciting move than my own: The Horn Book is coming to Simmons. For the children's literature world, this is huge. HUGE. I'm telling you.

(Don't believe me? Click here.)

This move makes a lot of sense considering that the magazine's founder, Bertha Mahony, graduated from Simmons in 1902. Nowadays, Simmons (specifically its Center for the Study of Children's Literature) and The Horn Book are both involved in Children's Book Boston, a new organization dedicated to providing a shared space for the Boston-based kid lit world. Simmons also hosts The Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium following the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards each year.

Maybe this sounds like a bit of a fact dump to you, but these factors basically all add up to the fact that Simmons continues to be the premier institution for those who study children's books (librarians included). The college's location in Boston, a literary epicenter in children's publishing since its American inception, marks it as a member of an incredible legacy. While The Horn Book's move does not signify a merger with Simmons, it does signify a stronger partnership. There's no telling what sort of internships might arise but, at the very least, students won't have to commute very far!

Lastly, in related, equally huge news, the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards were announced on January 27. Several Simmons students, myself included, joined Cathie Mercier in the Palace Road building for the live broadcasting of the ceremony. Bagels in hand, we all cheered for our favorites and shared our surprises (I'm looking at you, Midwinterblood). As sad as I might have been that Aaron Becker's Journey didn't win, I have to celebrate another move in the field of children's literature: the selection of a nonfiction title to win the Caldecott Medal. Maybe we can thank the Common Core for this uncommon win, but it certainly signifies an interesting shift in values from previous committees. It's not the first nonfiction win, but there aren't many to precede it. We can only speculate what's in store for next year. And, who knows, maybe we'll even be joined by The Horn Book staff for the 2015 broadcast!

So, there you have it. It's only February and already 2014 is groundbreaking.  I can't wait to find out what happens between now and June 6 (which, for those not in the know, is the day the film adaptation of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars comes out and basically ends the world because of feelings). For now, it's back to the books for another excellent week of grad school.

Children's Literature | leave a comment

The Future of GSLIS: Blended and Online Courses

You haven't heard from me in a long while because I've been in class every day for the past three weeks. No, I am not taking more than my usual part time load. However, I am taking my first online class this semester. The online class is taking up most of my time. I spend a good hour every day following my class discussion on twitter. Check us out #lis460. I also listen to podcasts from my professor, the ever so talented Linda Braun. After the podcast for the week is over I watch her explain a new trend in social media through multiple screencasts on youtube. I then do my readings. Thankfully they are more relevant than a textbook on reserve at Beatley; they are blog posts or magazine articles from the LIS, technology or education field. I then take all of this knowledge and discuss it with my group on a collaborative google doc. There are of course other projects, but that is the bare bones of what we do every week.

I used to luxuriate in the "one day of Simmons" marathon. I would spend just one day a week soaking up LIS knowledge in a lecture style class. Do some homework at the library or read and then check my LIS brain at the door to the parking garage because I was DONE. D-O-N-E. I really didn't want to be bothered with having to THINK or apply what I'd just read about to my work. You're rolling your eyes because deep down you know you've done just that at some point in your time at GSLIS. I don't blame you. I just want to say that I was a naysayer of online classes because I thought I would never get as good of an education without a flesh and blood professor standing in front of me. This is simply not true. This is the most intense course I have ever taken. I have never been so challenged.

I can't sit around spending too much time on this post because at this very moment I'm thinking about the qualities that define a great app and the benefits of BYOD (bring your own device) brokered through the school library. My mind is flooded with thoughts. And you know, the more I think about this blog the more I think that maybe a blog is not the best medium for this audience. Maybe what Simmons Snippets really needs is a Tumblr page or a weekly podcast. This is what you want your education to be like: making your brain explode with ideas and applying that electricity to the library where you work.

social media blog.jpg

Online | leave a comment

I Need Office Supply Rehab.

Please indulge me as I nerd out for a second about something that I don't think many people nerd out about.  Yes, I played World of Warcraft for years.  Yes, I am really into Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and a plethora of even less well-known fantasy and science fiction-y stuff.  But one of my favorite nerd-outs is so nerdy that no one even talks about it, and I'm not sure if anyone else suffers from this affliction besides myself (and apparently the whole of South Korea).  

Let's nerd out about supplies. 

Seriously, guys.  Is there anything better than the perfect pen, or a fresh notebook, or - the crème de la crème - a desk organizer?

I have spent years hunting for the right school supplies.  My father, bless his heart, finally gave up and sent me his credit card number so I could order my own planner, because in his words "just pick one already and buy it for yourself and consider it a Christmas present."

Everyone is different with what they prefer.  I recently came to terms with the fact that I am an archivist who prefers ballpoint pens - these pens, actually - and virtually nothing else will do.  Notebooks have become much less exciting after the introduction of the world to the perfect notebook - Moleskine, anyone? 

But outside of those things I am constantly and consistently shopping and keeping a list of the perfect supplies, to treat myself with when I am having a crappy day.  Most women eat chocolate; I buy desk supplies.  AND eat chocolate.  Go big or go home. 

Without further ado, my February's DO WANT list:

MochiThings:  is a collection of the cutest desk supplies that South Korea has to offer.  I recently bought this organizer when it was on sale, because honestly the two planners I got for Christmas wasn't enough, and seriously by the way...how flipping cute?!

Additionally, I am freaking out about why no one loves me enough to purchase THIS for me yet.  A wallet that includes my phone...there is virtually nothing else I will need in life.  Just an in-person endorsement, I bought my mother one for Christmas and so far it has been very handy and extremely well-made in person.  Just sayin'. 

If you're more of an amazon person, this Kikkerland Elephant Organizer is a great way to get the papers off your desk.  You can screw it to the wall, or use it freestanding.  On that note, I discovered Kikkerland yesterday and went down the rabbit hole of their super cute supplies.  Someone stop me, dear god...

And finally: as I said, la crème de la crème.  For Christmas from my loving husband I received.  The.  Cutest. Desk. Organizer.  Seriously, I almost regret sharing it with you, dear readers, because you're just going to die and it's out of stock... The Hold Fashioned Storage Chest.  It's big, it's bulky, and boy it's beautiful.  Take a look, and then refresh manically until it comes back in stock...

There you have it: my supply list for February.  And if you are an office supply nerd like me, please share your favorite websites or to-buys!! 

Students | leave a comment

The Super Bowl from the Perspective of a Non-football Fan

I'm not going to beat around the bush, I am not really big on this whole football thing. Don't ask me why, because I can assure you that at age 22 ½, I'm still trying to figure it out. My three other roommates, on the other hand, are about as nuts about football as cats are to cat nip. Every Sunday evening, they can found in our common space with a game on (because there is always a game on, somewhere), surrounded by chips, dip, and beer. Like the fans in the stadiums, they hoot, they holler, they make snide remarks about the opposing team. Even from the perspective of someone who would much rather listen to silence than hear a baseball game broadcasted over the radio, my roommates somehow always managed to make whatever they are watching seem like they are watching the greatest show on earth. And so, after months and months of listening to their weekend hoopla, I found myself Sunday night, over at a mutual friend's apartment watching the Big Game. So what did I think?

Well, for one thing, whenever there is something that is being projected onto a massive projection screen, you are inevitably going to get invested into whatever you are watching. My foolish hope of maybe getting some GSLIS homework done while watching the game was discarded within the first five minutes, especially after the Seahawks scored that early touchdown. As for the rest of the game, I'm not going to lie, I really got into it. I blame this partially on all the hype that surrounded the Denver Broncos and Peytone Manning. All I had been hearing throughout the football season was how amazing the Broncos offense was and that the game was probably going to lean towards the Broncos favor. As for Manning, I've only ever heard his name in passing, and never really knew much about the football star until recently. Going into Sunday, I was being told left and right that this time, Manning was going to be walking away with the trophy that had eluded him in the past. None of my friends at the time mentioned anything about one team dominating the other; in their opinion it was going to be a close game no matter what. Is it strange that I'm happy that all of my friends' predictions were wrong? I've watched a few football games before and personally, I found the Seahawks' almost shut out to be the most exciting and interesting game that I've ever watched. The same could be said if things had been the other way around.

I'm not sure why, but I found it to be exhilarating, watching and waiting to see how many touchdowns and field goals the Seahawks could accumulate before the end of the final quarter. When the Broncos finally did score a touchdown, I had high hopes that it was a sign that the tables had been turned, that in the last half of the game, it would just be the Broncos scoring consistently. When that didn't happen, I could tell from the people around me that none of them had anticipated such a game. Even before the clock had counted down in the last quarter, most of my friends had re-focused their attention elsewhere, the game all but forgotten. Most later explained that they knew the Seahawks would win at least an hour ago and didn't really see the point in watching what they already knew was going to happen. As one of them pointed out, this was a great game for newbies to watch, though he warned me that most games never play out like this. I'm not sure if this year's Super Bowl has finally gotten me to drink the metaphorical Kool-aid or not, but I do know that maybe next season, I'll make more of an effort to actually sit down and watch a game from start to finish. Who knows, maybe by this time next year, I'll be that person wearing my favorite team jersey and shouting ridiculous things at the TV? That would certainly be something to see.

Relaxing | leave a comment